ONC releases RFI on catalyzing interoperability at HIMSS13

By David Harlow
09:02 AM

Farzad Mostashari, National Coordinator for Health IT, announced the release of an ONC RFI at HIMSS March 6, entitled "Advancing Interoperability and Health Information Exchange," in order to identify ways in which ONC may accelerate interoperability of EMRs without any additional statutory or regulatory authority.

Per the summary of the ONC RFI:

HHS seeks input on a series of potential policy and programmatic changes to accelerate electronic health information exchange across providers, as well as new ideas that would be both effective and feasible to implement. To further accelerate and advance interoperability and health information exchange beyond what is currently being done through ONC programs and the EHR Incentive Program, HHS is considering a number of policy levers using existing authorities and programs.

There has been much discussion of interoperability at HIMSS, and there are probably at least as many perspectives on how to use the term as there are blind men's descriptions of an elephant. This ONC initiative dovetails nicely with private sector activities promoting interoperability (e.g.,CommonWell Health Alliance and Verizon SUMS) though clearly all parties are coming at the issue from different persectives, with differnt motivations, and on different timelines. 

From the presser:

The goals build on the significant progress HHS and its partners have already made on expanding health information technology use. EHR adoption has tripled since 2010, increasing to 44 percent in 2012 and computerized physician order entry has more than doubled (increased 168 percent) since 2008."The 2014 standards for electronic health records create the technical capacity for providers to be able to share information with each other and with the patient," said Dr. Mostashari. "Through the RFI, we are interested in hearing about policies that could provide an even greater business case for such information sharing."

In addition to seeking public input, the RFI also discusses several potential new policies and ideas to accelerate interoperability and exchange of a patient’s health information across care settings so that they can deliver better and more affordable care to their patients.

ONC wants to encourage data sharing over data hoarding, and is asking broadly for input and ideas on how to improve the exchange of electronic health information through changes in payment policy, tweaks to existing programs, focus on provider sectors with low uptake of EHRs, leverage conditions of participation for post-acute care providers, attention to patient access and use of their data in managing their care, and improvements in standards for electronic exchange of information and standards based electronic exchange of lab results.  

The RFI calls more specifically for responses in the following ten categories:

1. What changes in payment policy would have the most impact on the electronic exchange of health information, particularly among those organizations that are market competitors?